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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT NEWS RELEASE
Utah State Office
 
Release Date: 09/10/12
Contacts: Stephanie Howard (435) 781-4469    

XTO's Riverbend Environmental Assessment


Vernal, Utah—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Vernal Field Office (VFO) announces that the XTO Riverbend Environmental Assessment (EA) is available for a 30-day public comment period. The EA is available for review on the internet at the following website: http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/vernal/planning/nepa_.html. Please submit written comments by close of business October 10, 2012 to BLM_UT_Vernal_Comments@blm.gov or 170 S 500 E, Vernal, Utah, 84078. The most helpful comments are those that are as specific as possible regarding the adequacy of the EA and alternatives, or those that identify any data gaps or errors in the analysis.

The River Bend Unit (RBU) Project Area consists of approximately 16,719 acres 34 miles south of Vernal, Uintah County, Utah. Surface ownership in the RBU Project Area consists of BLM administered land; Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation; and State land. The EA analyzes four alternatives: the Proposed Action (484 wells), No Action (16 wells), Moderate Recovery (250 wells), and Resource Protection (150 wells). The Moderate Recovery alternative is the agency preferred alternative because it allows for lease development while minimizing environmental impacts.
 
A 30-day public comment period was originally held for this project from December 8, 2008 to January 6, 2009. A comment letter was submitted that raised substantial questions regarding the adequacy of the air quality analysis. In the meantime, BLM’s knowledge of the air quality in the Uinta Basin was rapidly expanding with the completion of three large photochemical models (the Uinta Basin Air Quality Study (UBAQS), the Gasco Study, and the Greater Natural Buttes Study), and the installation and operation of several air quality monitors.
 
After the public comment period, to try to determine the Riverbend EA’s incremental impact to air quality in the Basin, XTO volunteered to run an air quality model. The assumptions were overly conservative so the results were much higher than expected and conflicted with the results of the three larger models which analyzed larger drilling scenarios and resulted in smaller increments. In the meantime, the BLM and the EPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that standardized air quality modeling strategies for large and small projects. In accordance with the MOU guidance for mid-size projects, the Riverbend EA was reviewed by a Resource Technical Advisory Group (RTAG) composed of Utah’s land managers’ air quality specialists. The RTAG determined that an Emissions Inventory comparison, and an explanation of the conservative nature of the Riverbend Air Quality model results, would effectively disclose this project’s impacts and that a new photochemical model would not be necessary. To further determine the magnitude of impacts to air quality from well numbers, the BLM created the Moderate Development and Reduced Development alternatives.
 
With the addition of the original modeling results, the Emissions Inventory comparison, and the two new alternatives, the BLM determined a new public comment period for the EA was necessary. All comments that were received on the original EA have been treated as scoping comments in that they were taken into account during the revision of the EA, but a formal response to the comments was not included in the EA.
 
For further information contact Stephanie Howard, Environmental Coordinator; telephone 435-781-4400. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question with the above individual. You will receive a reply during normal business hours.


The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2013, the BLM generated $4.7 billion in receipts from public lands.
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Utah State Office   440 West 200 South, Suite 500      SLC, UT 84101-1345  

Last updated: 09-11-2012